I have two teenage boys. Their two sisters are older than they are. All were raised with the same set of values and the same set of standards, but the way in which those values and standards have been embraced couldn't be more different between the girls and the boys. Almost everyone we know with grown children tell us that the boys were much easier to raise than the girls, but that hasn't been our experience. A great majority of my prayer time is spent in prayer for my boys. Although I may not think the situation is at it's optimal setting, I'm not in despair. I have faith in what God has said concerning the "seed of the righteous."
However, when I come upon a story in the Bible concerning families with sons, it naturally captures my attention. This week, while studying for Sunday school, I read a chapter of an Andrew Murray book about the story of the prodigal son. Brother Murray focused more on the relationship between the father and the oldest son instead of the father and youngest son (the prodigal) and to be honest, it has held me willing captive all week long!
In this story we find three characters; a father who the Bible uses as an example of the heart of God for people, a young son who decides to take the money and run, and the older son who remains at home doing what he always did. There is no doubt that both of these boys are sons. They were born to the same parents and get their DNA from the same man. They are sons, in every sense of the word! The problem is that neither of these boys, although choosing completely different paths lived within the privileges of their sonship!
Let's take a look at the story. Quick summary: wealthy man, two sons, youngest son takes inheritance and splits only to waste it away and end up in poverty, oldest son stays faithfully working for Dad and gets angry when brother comes home in disgrace and father throws a celebration/welcome home party. Son confronts father and father replies by saying:
.’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’”
In this response, verse 31 is key! There are two significant statements here. One is that the Father's heart has always been with the son. It's his desire. He has designed things in such a way that will keep the sons close. They were both due to inherit his business where they could live and thrive, but remain in close proximity to the Father.
The other is that all he has is ours. He has already given us our inheritance. And obviously some of it is available now. The youngest son asked for his inheritance while the father was still living and received what he asked for.
It would seem really stupid if my teenage sons, who are ALWAYS eating would stand in front of a pantry full of food and complain that they were hungry when as residents of this household they can have whatever is in there at any time they desire.
In verse 17 we find the youngest son coming to his senses.
17 But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’ 20 So he got up and came to his father.
I think for the first time in his life, this young man realized what he had given up. His frame of reference concerning his father's servants lets us know that he realizes that he once had even more privileges than they do. So, not expecting to receive his former status back he returns to the Father in humility and repentance. The father, because of his heart, not only receives him back as part of the family, but restores him to his position as a son. That's a wonderful story and one well worth much more thought, but I want to move on to the next son.
To be continued....